THE DEBT is an adult, intelligent and captivating thriller. International intrigue and WWII and Nazis and Israeli agents from Mosad…the pace, the cutting, the music, the plot and the extraordinary acting all combine to make this a film for thinking people. And it is a continuous build of suspense. Which brings me to my point…what can lawyers learn from this film?
Of course there is a great story, that is essential. But it is the SEQUENCING in the telling of the story that is what you should look to, if you can remember while being propelled and sucked in to this remarkable journey.
Every story has a beginning, middle and end. And, in court, as we have always advocated, the end should instruct the jury, arbitrator, mediator or judge. But the question always arises as to, where do you begin the story?
We have always suggested starting at the juiciest place…the “sexiest” part…a grabber. And one classic way to do this is how THE DEBT begins…with what seems like the end. This is a tried and true and very effective way of having a narrative unfold. Begin at the end. And in the case of this film, a very dramatic, action-filled and gripping end. Then, rewind, as it were, and tell the story leading up to that first image/section. The audience/listeners will have a sense of familiarity, of being in on it, and there is a lot to be gained by this.
Another complication in this particular narrative is that the story takes place in two different times…with the same group of characters. During WWII and in 1997. So, there are two simultaneous narratives developing. And both of these employ this same principle of moving back through time. From the end to the beginning. And eventually, some of that conflates in the contemporary plot. By then, we are so taken in and caught up that we rejoice, or at least Katherine and I did, in knowing and hoping and wondering and being surprised by what is happening.
Often, in your cases, there are complex, interweaving narratives. When telling a story live, in court, it is essential to have some physical anchor, a place where you stand in the room, for each of these narratives. With this physical anchor clear and secure, it is possible to have multiple narratives unfold, intercut and happen at the same time. In film, of course, the editing, the cutting, allows the filmmaker to move us in place and time. In court, you have the burden of doing that yourself. Of course if you try it and become adept you will feel the power and synergy of building the narrative and suspense of multiple stories simultaneously. Try it. Rehearse. It will be hard at first, but it will get to be fun. And it is very effective.
TIP: Try telling your story from the end first, then rewind back to the start. And, try telling multiple narratives simultaneously. Rehearse, practice. Choose a case that benefits from these techniques. You will gain so much.